My boss makes us take time off at Christmas/New Year. Why are they so inflexible?

Hi Aunty B,

I have worked as a technical product designer for a medium-sized business for two-and-a-half years now, since graduating from university.

My main concern is that while I enjoy the work and the hours are reasonable, my boss (the owner) is completely inflexible and shuts down the company every year from one week before Christmas until late January and forces us to take all but three or four days of our annual leave at this time.

This means I can’t go overseas to see family because my partner works in an industry with a very busy period around that time. I am considering quitting over this but manufacturing is going downhill fast. I am actually considering a career change if I can’t resolve this. At this rate my partner and I will never get a decent holiday together.

Other employees have expressed their frustration about this, especially when our boss goes overseas for indulgent business trip/holidays a few times a year.



Dear Aaron,

While you lay awake last night, resentful that you can’t take your holiday when you want it, what do you imagine your boss is thinking?

No, not about a swanky holiday in Europe… Imagine your boss in bed, thrashing around and in a kind of rambling, crazy, half-awake, half-asleep hallucination that accompanies stress. This is what he is thinking:

“How can it get any worse? Damn that supplier. How could he go into administration owing me all that money after we have done business for so many years? Why would he place such a big order when he knew he couldn’t pay? No wonder he asked for quick delivery. How am I going to keep on that new guy I just hired? I am going to have to do my cash flows again as I will only be paid five cents in the dollar and he owes me $200,000! And I can’t get rid of that drug addict that is putting everyone in danger now because I have the union on my back. We’ve really got to win that new contract or I am going to have to start laying people off and if I do that we won’t be able to fill those orders. How can I get the guys to really put in 110% when they have already been working so hard? I wonder if Leanne is looking for another job? She came in late again. She must know how bad things are but surely she wouldn’t ditch. I couldn’t bear to lose her. I’ve got to do all those performance reviews and people will be expecting pay rises. How much do I tell them? I won’t even be able to pay a CPI rise. At least the bank extended the mortgage on the house but what happens if I need another one? I won’t get it because property prices are falling even further. What a pain I have to go to Europe. I have to go, though. My wife will kill me if I don’t. My blood pressure is so high. I have to drink less. At least I can sneak off and do some business over there and thank god for computers. I can work a bit every day. Oh God. How much of all of this is cyclical? How are we going to make Christmas??? What are those poor buggers going to do if this ship goes down? They haven’t got skills that are easily transferrable. How about Aaron? He is such a great worker. It would be fantastic if I could give him that time off through the year but then so many of them would want it. And how could we cope? That’s when the whole industry shuts down… I’ve really got to sleep or I will go mad… maybe I am mad…”

See? Take a minute to walk in your boss’s shoes and you actually might feel a tiny bit of gratitude for the poor bugger even bothering to create jobs. Besides, lots of people holiday separately. Wait till you have kids! You can kiss holidays, sex and cocktails goodbye for years.

As for structural change, that is a good reason to be looking around. But separate the two issues.

Meanwhile, plan long weekends: The long weekend with a Monday and Friday off are vastly underrated for the great effect they can have.

Be smart,

Your Aunty B

To read more Aunty B advice, click here.

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